The Weekly Round-Up #555 With Tartarus #4, Decorum #3, Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #2, Chu #1 & More Plus The Week In Music!

Best Comic of the Week:

Tartarus #4 – Tartarus is a favourite series of mine right now.  I’m impressed with Johnnie Christmas’s complex story, and the detailed and exciting art by Jack T. Cole.  This issue has Tilde having to choose between her “side” in the war and her friend Klinzu, although that means helping her newly-discovered brother enrich his criminal organization.  We get a lot more information on Mogen, and what his life was like, as this series moves towards the end of its first arc.  Tartarus is great, and comes highly recommended for people who are looking forward to the upcoming Dune movie; it has a similar vibe.

Quick Takes:

Chu #1 – It’s the return of John Layman’s Chew-niverse, with a new series featuring Tony Chu’s sister, Saffron, who was never around in the original series.  Saffron is a criminal, and spends most of this issue involved in a heist that goes wrong.  It appears that she also has some kind of food-based powers, like Tony, but it’s not clear how that’s working yet.  This looks like it’s a prequel to the original series, as Tony is a cop, and not FDA, and doesn’t yet seem to be friends with Colby, who is with the ATF.  My hope is that Saffron will get the bulk of the attention as this series develops, because prequels often bore me when I already know where a character is headed.  Layman is joined by Dan Boultwood on art, and while his style is much looser than original Chew artist Rob Guillory’s, I still like it.  I was saddened to learn that Outer Darkness, Layman’s wonderful science fiction series is not returning, so I’m pleased that this exists, although so far, I’d rather read that other book.

Daredevil #21 – After the battle in Hell’s Kitchen, Daredevil has decided to live up to his principles, and accept responsibility for a death he caused when Chip Zdarsky started writing this book, a while ago now.  It must be tough writing Marvel characters like this; the Daredevil in prison story was done (I think by Brubaker?), and done well, so you have to wonder what Zdarsky is going to bring to it that’s new.  He does find an interesting loophole to let Matt keep his identity hidden, which is a relief because the public persona stuff wasn’t all that long ago either.  One thing that really stood out in this issue is just how good Marco Checchetto really is.  There are a couple of very impressive sequences here, as DD is confronted by Spider-Man, and as he suits up and heads out into the city.  There’s a realism to Checchetto’s work that really makes this book click lately.

Decorum #3 – It’s taken too long to get there, but Decorum finally starts to make more sense with this issue, at least with regards to its main story, as the assassin from the first issue takes the courier to a school for assassins, despite the fact that she shows no interest in or aptitude for the job.  Mike Huddleston does amazing work, demonstrating a few different styles, from scratchy pencils to fully rendered computer graphic work, and Jonathan Hickman finally gives the characters space to breathe.  In many ways, this issue reminded me of Sloane Leong’s excellent Prism Stalker series.  I know that there is still a cosmic aspect to this story that is not clear yet, but I’m pleased to feel more connection to this story now.

Die #12 – This issue of Die feels like a huge one, as a lot happens.  We learn that Angela has a daughter, while Ash starts to look at the structure of the story and the world around her, leading to a surprise guest appearance.  When I compare this book to Kieron Gillen’s other current title, Once & Future, I’m surprised by how much more complex and rich this title is.  Sure, Stephanie Hans gets a lot of credit for making this book so atmospheric, but there really is a lot of life to Gillen’s characters, and no one does worldbuilding on this level.  This is a really terrific title.

Empyre #2 – Marvel’s not wasting any time catching back up to the publishing schedule for this event.  The Avengers realize that they’ve been played, and have to start organizing their resistance to the Cotati.  It’s a good issue, but it mostly is there to set up the rest of the series, and upgrade a few characters, like Captain Marvel.  I’m still interested, but am looking forward to Mantis returning next issue to keep me interested.

Empyre: X-Men #1 – With Jonathan Hickman co-writing this Empyre tie-in, I knew I’d want to get it, and that probably influenced my decision to read the main Empyre title.  The Cotati end up on Genosha, where apparently the Scarlet Witch has managed to reanimate a whole bunch of dead people, creating zombies.  Into the mix is tossed a small group of X-Men – Angel, M, Magik, and Jamie Madrox, as well as a new group of villains from Hickman’s run.  It’s an amusing issue, if not exactly essential to Empyre.

Hellions #2 – When it was first announced, I thought the concept for this book was ridiculous, but then I ended up enjoying the first issue.  This one has the team arriving at Mister Sinister’s old orphanage, where they are expecting to dismantle it, but they find zombie Marauders and the Goblin Queen waiting for them, and things don’t go well.  I’m curious enough to give this an arc, although it looks like the Sword of X crossover might be interrupting whatever story Zeb Wells has planned.  

Low #23 – It is a hope of mine that perhaps enforced quarantine time will lead to some perennially late Image comics seeing some forward movement (has anyone checked on David Lapham?).  Low returns, and once again, it’s suffered during the lengthy wait between issues.  Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini have made a very complicated book that is also ultimately a little delicate, as with so many moving parts, and Tocchini’s beautiful but sometimes confusing art, it’s a little tough to remember how all the characters relate to one another.  Still, this issue moves things forward quite a bit, with the fight between the two remaining underwater domes coming to a head, and Stel’s mission getting back on course with a surprise reunion.  I love the way that Remender is constantly switching things up in this comic, and the insane designs that Tocchini brings to the table.  I’d really like to see this run somewhat more regularly and reach the end of its run.

New Mutants #11 – We finally wrap up the Karnelia story, as the New Mutants start to comprehend the depth of the threat that online anti-mutant bloggers actually pose.  It feels like Ed Brisson is getting ready to connect this series to some of the ills of the real world.  It was nice seeing Wildside join the squad momentarily, but this book is starting to juggle a lot of characters, and with very little actual character development for many of them.  Brisson is a great writer, and my hope is that as regular publication resumes, this book will regain its sense of flow.

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #2 – So Aphra and a new crew have decided to go looking for some ancient rings that grant power (and madness), while trying to stay ahead of a rival group looking for the same thing.  That’s a good start, but they end up on the planet they need way too quickly for my liking.  Other than that quibble, this is a good comic, with the new creative team of Alyssa Wong and Marika Cresta showing they have a good handle on Aphra, although I don’t see them setting up a big double-cross, which is kind of Aphra’s whole thing.  Maybe I’ll be surprised still…

Wolverine #3 – I was surprised to see the first part of the Pale Girl storyline wrap up so quickly this month, as Logan leads the Marauders on a mission.  Ben Percy is writing this book, so far at least, as kind of an extension of his X-Force series, with only minimal attempts to make it be about Logan as a character.  I don’t mind that, really, and find it interesting that he has one of the more comprehensive corners of the Krakoan world to his own.  I am curious to learn more about the relationship between Logan and Jean, which gets hinted at here.  Adam Kubert’s art feels like coming home again.

X-Men/Fantastic Four #4 – This little series ends well, with the two superhero teams dealing with Doom, and then figuring out how to find common ground with one another.  It’s increasingly hard to understand what kind of role Charles Xavier and Magneto are going for in this new world – they are definitely not heroes, and writer Chip Zdarsky explores their approaches a little.  It would be interesting to see Franklin Richards pop up in some of the X-titles, but it seems unlikely.  It’s curious that Xavier takes his Cerebro helmet off here more than I think he’s done anywhere else since House of X began.  While this series was interesting, I don’t see it having much of a lasting effect on either the X-Men or the Fantastic Four’s titles.

Comics I Would Have Bought if Comics Weren’t So Expensive:

Amazing Spider-Man Sins Rising Prelude #1

Batman #95

Detective Comics #1024

Empyre: Avengers #1

Lords of Empyre: Emperor Hulkling #1

Tales From Harrow County Vol. 1

Bargain Comics:

Dr. Strange #1 – I’m not sure why Marvel felt the need to relaunch Dr. Strange with Mark Waid still as the writer, but the “Surgeon Supreme” tagline on the cover does denote a new direction that, at least in this first issue, has me interested.  Strange has the use of his hands back, which means that he’s back to performing high risk surgery, but is also still available for heroing, such as when the Wrecker starts making a mess of things.  I hadn’t realized that Kev Walker was the new artist on this title, or I might have picked it up sooner; I really like his work.  This shows promise – maybe I should get the other issues I’ve missed.

Excalibur #3 – I didn’t see enough to keep my interest with Excalibur in the first two issues, but with the X of Swords event being centred on Otherworld, I thought I should give it more of a chance.  I’m still not feeling it.  The portrayal of Gambit feels off, and I think turning Shogo into a dragon is a silly idea (how many dragons do the X-Men need?).  The parts featuring Rictor were the most interesting to me, but there wasn’t a lot of that.

Fantastic Four #18-20 – I thought the notion that an Overseer from another world is ultimately responsible for the creation of the Fantastic Four to be a silly one, but in the end, Dan Slott did some good with it, introducing the character of Sky, Johnny’s ‘soul mate’ to the team (to be, apparently, forgotten in the Empyre event).  I did enjoy the short storyline about the Mole Man being upset with Wyatt Wingfoot’s people for taking in some Moloids, and the Keewatin people finding parallels with colonization.  Coming off these issues, I’m more interested in maybe picking up more of the FF’s adventures, whereas I’ve given up on the rest of Slott’s Iron Man run completely.

Kid Lobotomy #1-6 – I never paid much attention to Shelley Bond’s Black Crown imprint at IDW when it first came out, but then ended up picking up a couple of the series as sets.  Kid Lobotomy, by Peter Milligan and Tess Fowler, never really worked.  Milligan was a little too self-indulgent with this one, as he clearly had some things he wanted to say about Franz Kafka and William S. Burroughs.  The thing is, when I was in my twenties, I’d have been into that, but some twenty years later, I wonder why Milligan hasn’t moved on.  Reading this surrealistic series about a slightly deranged boutique hotel manager reminded me a lot of the Ann Nocenti Kid Eternity title at Vertigo, but only its worst aspects.  There’s a lot of weird stuff in here, and some interesting characters, but there’s never a clear and engaging plot, and that’s a problem.

The Week in Music:

Sons of Kemet – Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do – This album came out in 2015, but it wasn’t until a couple of years later that I discovered this fantastic British jazz band.  I’ve been filling in gaps in my collection, and am so happy to have finally gotten their sophomore release. It’s a kinetic collection of afrofuturist danceable jazz, with a pair of drummers supporting Theon Cross’s tuba and Shabaka Hutching’s visionary saxophone and clarinet playing.  The Sons of Kemet are a perfect bridge into the London jazz scene, and would be palatable to anyone with a love of hiphop or EDM.  They are at the vanguard of the Afrofuturist movement…

Sven Wunder – Wabi Sabi – This was a pretty random discovery, reading through lists of music on Twitter, but it helped make my week.  I don’t know the first thing about Sven Wunder, but this album of Japanese influenced Swedish and Turkish jazz is pretty beautiful, and very unique.